Barrel of Monkeys students love to write about celebrities and pop culture icons - so we decided to bring you some of our favorite pop-culture-inspired stories in That’s Weird, Grandma: Star-Studded Stories. You won’t just see conventional stars in the show, though. We’re also featuring “BOM stars” - beloved characters that have become a staple in our repertoire.
Here are three BOM stars we’re excited to bring to the stage during this round of Grandma!
1. The Evil Horse
The Evil Horse (making their Grandma debut in this round!) comes to us from Isis at Poe Classical School. This horse hates “everything under the sun,” from donuts, to chicken wings, to having fun. Company member Rawson Vint turned Isis’s poem into a song - and now, The Evil Horse’s hatred of everything lives on in BOM infamy.
Hello little kiddies, little ponies, and fillies
I’m an evil horse you see.
I hate everything from donuts to chicken wings
Don’t put them in front of me.
2) Mrs. Rawson
Mrs. Rawson - a character created by the aforementioned Evil-Horse-song-writing Rawson - originated in the story “How To Get to School in a Fast/Safe Way” by Maggie, Mira, Branden, Sydney, and Javon from Lincolnwood Elementary. They wrote the tale during Persuasive Argument Day, a part of Barrel of Monkeys residencies when we ask students to argue for or against a specific stance.
These students argued that bosses should allow their employees to pick their kids up from school during the workday - and Mrs. Rawson illustrates why this would make the world a better place. When Mom needs to stay late at work, she calls her friend Mrs. Rawson to pick her kids up from school - but thanks to Mrs. Rawson’s not-so-wonderful driving skills, the kids end up in a wild car ride involving lots of swerving, speeding, and near-collisions.
We believe… work should let parents drive and pick up kids to schools. Rocket cars could make the drop off fasters. It is safer when parents drop kids off. Parents know where to go. Your parents get worried when they aren’t the ones. We need our parents!
3) The Man Who Farted
The Man Who Farted comes to us from Angel at Graves Elementary in Summit, IL. The Man has a problem with flatulence - and his diet filled with broccoli and tacos certainly doesn’t help. We turned his tribulations into a classical choir piece - and of course, added in some appropriate sound effects.
The Man was eating cereal then the man farted the man was eating broccoli the man farted again the man was eating tacos the man farted loud the end.
Join us for this Sunday’s opening performance of That’s Weird, Grandma: Star-Studded Stories for more BOM stars. The fun starts at 3pm at the Neo-Futurist Theater in Andersonville - get tickets ahead of time here.
We’re excited for That’s Weird, Grandma: Star-Studded Stories to begin this Sunday afternoon! This round of our public sketch show features some of our favorite stories BOM students have written about pop-culture icons, from Migos, to Prince, to Stranger Things characters.
We sat down with the director of this round, Mary Tilden (also BOM’s Education Coordinator) to talk about the stories she’s most excited about - as well as who her favorite star is! Take a look, then join us for the show Sundays at 3pm at The Neo-Futurist Theater now through February 17. We have half-price adult tickets at this Sunday’s preview performance - learn more here.
Normally, I’m Barrel of Monkeys’ Artistic Director, and I am caught behind the scenes directing shows. I’m thrilled about this show because I got to hand the directing reigns over to the amazing Ana Velazquez, who has been leading us through such a fun rehearsal process for our next school show at Columbia Explorers Academy (BOM’s longest School Partner). The cast is comprised of long-time BOM all-stars, as well as several of our new stars who joined BOM in the fall. Check out these photos of us having fun singing, laughing and putting our creative minds together to create this fantastic show for CEA’s students!
We start rehearsal by learning a Spanish-language song by an amazing Artistic Associate, Allison Grischow, seen here teaching Mary Tilden and Joan Figarella. It’s a story about a Dolphin Baby and Unicorn Baby. It’s cute and hilarious!
While some of us learn music, our Production Manager Krista Mickelson brings some of our new folks into our props/costume closet so they can choose all the perfect items they need for the show. Artistic Associates Taylor Galloway, Aissa Guerra, and Donny Acosta are loving those fake flowers.
Mary and Joan pose with Ana - in addition to directing, she’s also designing some neat rib cage props!
Aissa and I have found our Perfect Costumes for an underwater story (thanks for the amazing costume donation, David Rosenberg and Krista’s Mom!)
Taylor and fellow Artistic Associate Devin Sanclemente rehearse a song about “Life and Birds.” Taylor wrote the song and we’re featuring Devin as the wise old lark.
All-Star and BOM Program Director Shá Norman plays “The Old Man” in Taylor’s song, along with some bird friends: Donny, Mariana Green, Allison, and Mary.
And we end rehearsal reviewing an incredible story with Mariana on guitar, Jayson Acevedo as Bob Dylan, Allison as Albert Einstein, and Mary as Isaac Newton. It’s WEIRD AND AMAZING!
Thanks for checking out our blog - we are so excited for the Columbia Explorers Academy show on Friday morning! Keep an eye on our Instagram story for live updates from the show.
Sometimes, the stories that our students write lend themselves to singing and dancing, and thanks to the incredible musicians in the BOM company, we’re able to make that happen! That’s the case with one of the stories - “The Monster” by Sebi M. - in our Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies show this Friday.
So how do we take a students’ words and turn them into a musical number? Here’s a peek into the process:
BOM musicians often get inspired to turn a story into a song when reading it aloud with their fellow cast members. Maybe its language is extremely poetic, or its plot invokes a certain musical style. Company member Elisa noticed this with “The Monster,” whose original text is as follows:
Once o upon a time there was a Monster that was named nothing! The Monster was scary as a dementor but as sad as are rock. Since the monstor was so scary he had no friends! But on day the Monstor went on a walk and all of sudden he heard “crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch!” So the Monster turned around to run back to his cave but when he turned around he saw a Ghol so scary it did not have any friends too! Because the Ghol was as scary as a zombie! So the Monster asked the ghol if they wanted to be friends and the ghol said yes. So they played Ghol/Monster/Tag togher! And they were friends forver!
So she took the story home and composed a song outside of rehearsal.
Song lyrics for everyone!
Once she’d written the song, Elisa brought it back to rehearsal room, where the whole cast listened to her play through the song. That way, everyone could get a feel for its style before delving into its more technical aspects. It also gave Elisa an opportunity to mention helpful details for learning and adapting the story - for example, she wrote the song with a 1940s-style trio in mind, so we added sparkly clothing to our costume list!
Gather ‘round the piano!
Once we’d heard the song a few times, we delegated parts among the cast based on each performers’ particular skills. Two of our singers, Diana and Robbin, decided to step up to sing the main part of the song, and other members of the cast filled in for the ensemble parts. Elisa then went over the music with them, teaching both the main melodies and pointing out moments with room to improvise.
A dramatic transition - complete with jazz hands!
Of course, learning to sing the music in a musical number is important - but the movement and acting choices that accompany the song make the story truly come to life.
For the most part, Oly (playing the monster) and Jen (playing the ghoul) created their own choreography with Artistic Director Brandon ensuring everything looked cohesive. Our musicians played the song while Oly and Jen devised movements for their characters - and the ensemble added other moments to help the story come to life even more.
And they were friends forever!
Practice makes perfect, so we ran the song and staging a few more times. This isn’t just to make sure everyone knows their notes and movements, though - it’s also about trying new jokes, adding new movements, and cutting anything that isn’t needed.
We also looked back at the students’ original writing to make sure the piece still accurately reflected the story, and to add in any details that might have become muddled while adapting. And we’ll also take another look at the song during other rehearsals so we can revisit our work with fresh eyes and ears!
Keep an eye on our Instagram story this Friday morning to hear the final version of the song - as well as more of the amazing stories written by Peirce students!
Our beloved holiday round of That’s Weird, Grandma is almost here!
That’s Weird Grandma Rings in the Holidays starts Monday, and we’re thrilled to bring some of our favorite seasonal stories by Chicago elementary school students to The Neo-Futurists Theater once again.
BOM Artistic Director Brandon Cloyd has curated a line-up both hilarious and heartwarming featuring Grandma classics as well as some new stories, such as a dialogue between Krampus and Santa from our Loyola Park After-School Program.
See a sneak-peek in our promo video below, and then be sure to join us between December 10 and December 22. Check out the full schedule and get your tickets here - they’re already selling fast, so be sure to grab yours now to avoid disappointment!